Skip to Content

Cisco Is Building a Smart City in Guangzhou. Here’s What It Has to Say About the Country’s Growing Network of Cameras

China is expected to house over 600 million surveillance cameras by 2020. But the growth of what is already considered the world’s largest camera surveillance network has sparked questions about the nation’s data privacy.

But according to vice president and global innovation officer at Cisco, questions about whether citizens should be wary of this system requires cultural considerations, and is one that should not be answered by tech companies.

His comments at the Fortune Global Tech Forum in Guangzhou Thursday comes as Cisco works on a $3 billion smart city in the Panyu district of Guangzhou.

“It’s a difficult issue, certainly. Cisco is a technology company—we’re enablers. Technology is agnostic, technology doesn’t necessarily know borders. We can only set up a company or a country for success in the digital age.” Diedrich said. “How it gets used is a cultural consideration, a government consideration, and a citizenry consideration.”

Another issue to consider when it comes to smart cities, says Diedrich is whether or not a particular technology makes sense given the community’s population, foot traffic, and individual needs.

Take smart lighting, or lighting that dims when it’s bright out and lights up in the dark, for example.

“It’s a city to city issue. Smart lighting is good, but it isn’t cheap, so your lights have to be on for a certain amount of time and you have to have a certain amount of traffic in order for it to pay for itself,” he said. “We know it saves 20% off of energy consumption for the typical city. Is that going to pay for itself in a typical city or not? We have to do that analysis.”